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Baker - 1John J BakerHIST 202Professor Wilhelm7 November 2014The Paradox of War: A Study of Milestone’s All Quiet on The Western FrontLewis Milestone’s All Quiet on the Western Front, a film adaption of the famousnovel by Erich Maria Remarque, presents World War I in a different view than most warstories at the time. Typically, soldiers going off to war are seen as brave, heroic,courageous, etc. Milestone sought to disprove these ideals by portraying WWI in a morestoic and melancholy light. He bases his narration off of Paul Bäumer’s, written byRemarque. Both the direction and narration of All Quiet on the Western Frontby LewisMilestone help highlight the film’s main themes of the contrast between the perceptionand reality of war, the detrimental effects that the war has on the soldiers that fight in it,and the futility of war as a whole.The use of contrasts in All Quiet on the Western Frontis one of the major ways inwhich Milestone expresses the film’s themes. There are plenty that exist when comparingthe beginning of the film to the end. For example, at the beginning of the movie, the boysare ecstatic about the idea of enlisting in the army and going off to fight in World War I.Their teacher exclaims that fighting the war would bring great glory to the young boys,stating how “sweet and fitting it is to die for the Fatherland.” In addition to the teacher’swords, the first scene of the film depicts a parade of soldiers marching down a Germanstreet as they celebrate the fact that they were going to battle. This idea of patriotism wasdeeply embedded into the German culture at the time. The contrast is evident when theboys actually go off to battle, where it is not what they expect at all. By the end of thefilm, as Paul returns to his hometown, it is apparent that the war has greatly affected his
Baker - 2preconceived notion of war being glorious. When asked to tell about the heroics of warby his old teacher, Paul simply states that it is “dirty and painful to die for your country.”Clearly this isn’t what Paul was originally taught, as the teacher was taken aback by sucha response. Milestone makes a point of focusing on the young schoolboys and theirreaction to Paul’s words, exemplifying the kind of “brainwashing” that they undergo. Theboys call Paul a coward, as they are taught to believe, even though they know nothingabout what he has gone through. Along the lines of the first example, Milestone also uses